Topic: Business October 14, 2016
Author: Neil Cubley
Tags: Start-ups

Somebody else has the same business idea as you, what now?

InTouch.com Bank of Ireland

Intouch.com pictured in Dublin. Photo: Naoise Culhane. (sofa models’ own)

4 MIN READ

I
magine that you come up with a great idea for a start-up. Eureka! You pitch the concept to anyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen, get some great feedback from mentors and fellow entrepreneurs and sharpen the concept. You argue over the best name for your startup while putting together a ‘proof of concept’.

1 Why didn’t somebody else think of this before?

And it works.  Everyone seems to get it. There are plenty of questions but nothing you can’t handle. ‘Why hasn’t anyone come up with this idea before?’ people say when you walk them through it. Then, one day you find out that they have. Somebody else has already come up with the same brilliant idea you have or pretty close. You’re already invested in it. You’ve worked long hours making it work. Now what?

2 Tim and Javier try to update their contact details (and discover they can’t)

Tim Arits and Javier Mey moved from The Netherlands and Spain, respectively, to Ireland in 2012. When they got here, they were both frustrated at how difficult it was to share their new contact details with their friends and family back home. There was no easy solution. So they decided to invent one. Tim had worked in Google, Javier at Sate and Banco Santander so their credentials were impressive.

Workbench regulars Tim and Javier from Bundly merged with another startup to become Intouch.

Intouch. Photo: Naoise Culhane.

3 Bundly: ‘the 21st century address book’

The result was an online platform called Bundly. They billed it as ‘a true address book for the 21st century’.  Tim and Javier built a working prototype demonstrating how people could use their app to upload and edit their contact details and share them after setting permissions for how much they were willing to share with each contact.

That done, any time they changed their profile details on Bundly the changes would automatically update on the friends’ and family’s phones and other devices. Simple.

4 The launch party

Tim and Javier used the Workbench in Bank of Ireland Grand Canal Square branch while developing Bundly and got help from our Innovation team who talked them through regulatory, data protection and privacy issues for the app. They even held the launch party in the branch. Things were going well but then the worst appeared to happen. They discovered that someone else had come up with the same idea. And not in some far-off country but right there in Dublin. Another start-up, called Qreach.

5 What are we going to do now?

Qreach’s website said ‘we’re revolutionizing the way we share our contact details in a digital, app driven world.’ Pretty similar to Bundly’s ‘we are reinventing the way people share contact and payment information.’ Both companies had been both hard at working on their solutions completely unaware that a couple of miles away somebody else was doing the same thing.

If the description of what both start-ups did was almost identical, there was a difference in approach. Bundly had come at the problem of keeping contact details up-to-date with friends and family in mind while Sameh Abdalla, from Egypt, and Doychin Doychev, from Bulgaria, at Qreach had looked at the challenge facing people who wanted to update doctors, banks, utilities and other providers with their details. Same issue, different hassles.

Sameh had lectured on robotics, data mining and digital forensics at UCD while Doychin had a master’s degree in Recommender Systems and Big Data analytics at UCD so, again, their credentials were impressive.

6 ‘It’s not unusual’

It turns out that it’s not unusual for two start-ups to discover they are both trying to solve the same problem. Bank of Ireland Entrepreneur in Residence, Gene Murphy explains:

“Many start-ups are anxious about keeping their business ideas secret but while originality is 1% of success, 99% is down to how well ideas are executed.”

7 Getting in contact

So back to Tim and Javier and Sameh and Doychin. What did they do? Because, on the face of it, both start-ups were looking at a disaster. The solution was simple but scary. They decided to get in contact (after all that was what both companies were trying help people to do).

“We were excited to explore the opportunity but it felt scary to talk to a competitor.”

Tim Arits

“We were amazed that there were others as crazy as us who wanted to revolutionize contact management and give up well-paid careers.”

Sameh Abdalla

 

8 It started with a pint

Sameh reached out to Tim asking for informal meeting over a pint at Against the Grain. That meeting went well and so both companies met up over dinner at Bull & Castle. Everyone was friendly but it was challenging to really open up to each other, at first. After all they were still potential rivals. Without really admitting it, both sides worked hard to avoid answering questions about their future plans and ideas.

9 Bundly and QReach decide to come clean with each other

There was only one way forward. Both teams decided they had to open up and show each other their complete plans. When they did it turned out they had the exact same vision and the exact same passion about it. Both teams wanted to turn static contact details into dynamically updated ones so that people could control their data and companies could have up-to-date customer information.

10 Two startups become one

The next step soon became obvious – a merger. QReach and Bundly became Intouch.com combining their talents so that they could achieve success more easily. Intouch.com is now a High Potential Start Up backed by NDRC, an early stage investor in tech companies, and Irish angel investors and in talks with the biggest venture capitalists in the world for their next round of funding.

“We are currently running the strongest, happiest and most funded pre-seed start-up on earth, and we are ready to challenge the world.”

Tim, Sameh, Javier and Doychin, Intouch.com

“It’s great to see Bundly link in with QReach and expanding to form Intouch.com.”

Keith Murphy, Business Adviser, Grand Canal Square

InTouch.com Bank of Ireland

Intouch. Photo: Neil Cubley

Find out more

Find out more about the Bank of Ireland Business Start-up Package.

Find your nearest Workbench.

Find out more about: Intouch.com

Picture credit: Naoise Culhane.
Topic: Business October 14, 2016
Author: Neil Cubley
Tags: Start-ups

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